June 11, 2008 — The National Science Foundation has awarded $2 million to the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, Central Virginia Community College and Danville Community College in support of "Engineers: PRODUCED in Virginia," an innovative distance learning educational program that allows students to earn a four-year engineering degree without leaving the Lynchburg or Danville communities.
The money will be distributed to all three schools over a five-year period and will be used primarily for student scholarships. Portions of the funds will be used by U.Va. to provide campus services to Lynchburg students, to hire program staff, to help offset costs for the materials and technology needed for an optimized program and to expand the program to other Virginia community colleges.
The "Engineers: PRODUCED (Providing Undergraduate Connections to Engineering Education) in Virginia" program allows qualified students to earn an associate of science in engineering degree at Central Virginia Community College or Danville Community College and then complete their four-year engineering degree at U.Va. in Charlottesville, Lynchburg or Danville. Students who finish the first two years with at least a 3.4 grade-point average are guaranteed admission into U.Va.'s Engineering School.
The program aimed for 32 students in its first year, but instead enrolled more than 120.
"The 'PRODUCED in Virginia' program has far exceeded our enrollment expectations in its first year," said James H. Aylor, dean of U.Va.'s Engineering School. "The success of this program from its inception approximately one year ago has been encouraging; its continued vitality will have significant, positive repercussions upon the generation of additional engineering talent for the state and nation."
According to Stan Shoun, Central Virginia Community College vice president for workforce development and continuing education, the early success of the program helped to secure National Science Foundation funding.
"Industry's involvement in identifying, recruiting and supporting local student talent is crucial for workforce development in this region and the Commonwealth of Virginia," he said. "Our high rate of industry involvement, as well as our enrollment numbers, were key in securing the NSF grant."
Recently the program received a boost from the state as well. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine made a $300,000 grant award available to the program through the Workforce Investment Act in late May. This money will be used to provide 32 scholarships and update physics labs in Lynchburg. The money will also be used to partially refund company sponsorships of students to reward them for participating and to encourage them to increase their involvement with the program.
About PRODUCED in Virginia
The "Engineers: PRODUCED in Virginia" program began in 2007 as a remedy to the burgeoning demand for engineers in Central Virginia. The University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, Central Virginia Community College's Workforce Development and nuclear giant AREVA NP forged an agreement that would allow qualified engineering students graduating from the community college an opportunity to earn bachelor degrees from U.Va. through studies conducted in Lynchburg. Due to its success, the program is now expanding to Danville and communities in southwest Virginia.
About the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science
Founded in 1836, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science combines research and educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within the undergraduate programs, courses in engineering, ethics, mathematics, the sciences and the humanities are available to build a strong foundation for careers in engineering and other professions. Its abundant research opportunities complement the curriculum and educate young men and women to become thoughtful leaders in technology and society. At the graduate level, the Engineering School collaborates with the University's highly ranked medical and business schools on interdisciplinary research projects and entrepreneurial initiatives. With a distinguished faculty and a student body of 2,000 undergraduates and 650 graduate students, the Engineering School offers an array of engineering disciplines, including cutting-edge research programs in computer and information science and engineering, bioengineering and nanotechnology. For information, visit www.seas.virginia.edu.